Will Power stays focused through wife Liz’s latest setback despite stress: ‘I miss her here’ As Foyt seeks past glory, team retools with Cannon’s engineering expertise, title record

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — A very eventful off-season — and, unfortunately, often for no good reason — was another difficult turn for Will Power and his wife, Liz, this week.

Battling a staph infection that was already touchy enough to force her husband to forgo a Rolex 24 in Dayton in January, Liz Power was hospitalized for the second time in two months this week.

The trial began Sunday night with a 911 phone call that led to a 2 a.m. hospital visit. Liz later returned to the hospital, where she was kept overnight before being released on Tuesday.

Will Power has been hard at work and will start defending his second NTT IndyCar Series championship at Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, but the Team Penske star has always been a man of habit.

The Aussie has found solace in his training despite being at the season opener without Liz (and their son Bo) for the first time in years.

CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION: How Liz Power knew a few months early that her husband would win the title in 2022

OPEN SEASON: Details for watching the St. Petersburg Grand Prix this weekend

“I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s about what you pay attention to when you get in the car,” Power said Friday before the workout. “Honestly, you may know it so well that when you’re locked in a car, you don’t even think about anything but that. So I know this from years of experience.

“I had some tough times in my career and then I just got in the car and I did a full performance and it wasn’t even that special. Return to your office and you are in the game. I did all the fitness and prep work anyway. I don’t feel like I missed anything.”

OPENING PRACTICE: Speeds from the first session of the 2023 season

Power, IndyCar’s all-time leading qualifier with a record 68 poles, showed himself in his game on Friday, with many IndyCar stars out of a 75-minute practice marred by several incidents and two red flags. Power, who has qualified first in nine of the last 13 races in St. Petersburg, showed the eighth fastest lap in a session led by Scott Dixon, Colton Herta and Alex Palow.

The family helped care for Liz and Bo at their home in Troutman, North Carolina, providing him with regular sleep. Liz’s brother is also coming to St. Petersburg to keep Will company this weekend.

“Everything was fine,” Will said. “This is how we organized it. Just seeing Liz struggle sucks. It really is. Someone who is always on his feet and will be somewhat bedridden and unable to do much of what he usually does.

“It sucks that she is not in the race. I know how much she loves it. I love that she’s here. I love that my son is here. It’s lonely.”

Liz Power was a constant presence at the racetrack as her husband’s biggest supporter. After winning the 2022 championship, Will Power expressed confidence in Liz’s pre-season hunch that he would win the title.

“It’s just sad to leave home without them. Obviously you have FaceTime and all, so I call her several times a day. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

After complications from surgery, Liz was hospitalized for a few days in mid-January and Will abandoned his sports car debut in Dayton to take care of her.

He still hopes that in a couple of weeks, Liz will hear the good news that the infection is all but gone and her blood is sterile.

“Doctors said just get through (mid-March),” said Will Power, whose tumultuous off-season also included broken ribs in a karting accident. “She did see a spine doctor and the healing looked good, but the infection is a key thing to get under control. She will still be on antibiotics in April. It’s been 12 weeks they’ve wanted it, so just praying it completely eliminates it. And the numbers in the blood continue to decline. It’s happening slowly, but moving in the right direction.”

Such is the case with Power, who turned 42 into his 18 on season. Although he declined to discuss the details, Power said he intended to continue driving the No. 12 Penske Dallara-Chevrolet beyond the 2023 season and sponsor Verizon. recently announced an extension.

Power told NBC Sports that he intended to live into his 40s.

“We’re fine,” Power said. “We know what happens in the future (and) after this year. Just leave it at that. We are not talking about contracts at Penske.

“As long as I’m competitive, we’ll just take it as it is.”

PETERSBURG, Florida — Bigger isn’t always better for IndyCar race engineer Michael Cannon. The 61-year-old player is always looking for a new challenge.

Cannon credits finding him as the technical director of AJ Foyt Racing in the NTT IndyCar series.

A native of Montreal, Quebec, he has over 40 years of experience as a racing team engineer.

Most recently, Cannon was an engineer at Chip Ganassi Racing for Scott Dixon, whom he helped win his sixth IndyCar championship. Prior to that, Cannon worked for Dale Coyne Racing with young Santino Ferrucci in 2019.

The Dale Coyne team and AJ Foyt Racing are small divisions of IndyCar.

OPEN SEASON: Details for watching the St. Petersburg Grand Prix this weekend

Cannon prefers this because he can play a big role in managing the team.

“There are many reasons,” Cannon said in an interview with NBC Sports in St. Petersburg, home of Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg. “One of the things that I worked with Santino in 2019 and I think of him the world.

“I feel much more responsible to the whole team. I enjoy working with young rookie riders like Benjamin Pedersen.

“It was an opportunity to take a team that hadn’t competed in a couple of years and take them up the grid.

“It’s a passion project for me to help a small team compete against the best in the series.”

During Friday’s first practice session in St. Petersburg, both Voith riders were in the bottom half of the speed chart. Ferrucci finished 20th in speed with Pedersen last. after lightly touching the wall.

It has been years since AJ Foyt Racing has been a strong point in the NTT IndyCar Series.

His most recent win was at the 2013 Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix with Takuma Sato finishing second in the next race on the streets of São Paulo, Brazil and leading the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But Sato finished 17th in points, behind the team of the legendary AJ Foyt, the first four-time Indianapolis 500 winner.

Sato remained at Voith until 2016 with a rotating line-up of teammates including Conor Daley, Martin Plowman, Jack Hawksworth and Alex Tagliani.

After Sato left in 2017 to join Andretti Autosport (and win the Indy 500), the team included Carlos Munoz, Daley (again), Matheus Leist, Tony Kanaan, James Davison, Charlie Kimball, Dalton Kellett, Sebastien Bourdais , J.R. Hildebrand, Tatiana Calderon, and Kyle Kirkwood.

His best result in the standings in this segment was Sato’s 14– finishing place in 2015.

In addition to the long lineup of drivers, there was also a long list of engineers.

Voith handed over the command to his son Larry, who tried to bring back some of the proud operation’s former glory through various leadership moves.

The most recent was Cannon’s hiring as the team’s technical director during the off-season.

Cannon hired respected veteran racing engineers Daniele Cucchiaroni and Roberto Garcia.

In November, team president Larry Foyt hired team manager Craig Brooks, who had previously served as technical director for Indy NXT by Firestone (formerly Indy Lights) for the past 13 years and was a part-time technical advisor to the IMSA series. since 2016.

Voith also hired Chris “Beaker” Schaeffer as a store manager in Indianapolis. Schaeffer has a wealth of experience in various managerial and technical roles in the motorsports industry over the past two decades. Six more mechanics have been hired as Voith stepped up work this year.

“Of course, this year we have a lot of new faces in the team, but I can say that the mood is very positive, and everyone is pulling in the same direction,” said Larry Foyt. “We know it will take some time to get to where we want to be, but we look forward to testing and proving we are moving in the right direction.”

At both Coyne and Foyt, each crew member has to carry a greater workload than larger crews.

“The success I have had at Dale Coyne Racing goes hand in hand with (engineers) Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson,” said Cannon. “Ross Bunnell was Craig’s assistant and is now Scott Dixon’s race engineer.

“There were a lot of wonderful talented people there. We had Sebastian Bourdais as a driver (at Dale Coyne Racing) so we had to get it right.”

AJ Foyt Racing has two racing shops. One is based in the original store in Waller, Texas, and the other is in Speedway, Indiana, just a few blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Brooks watches both from Indy.

Cucchiaroni will take care of the number 14 car that Ferrucci drives this year, and Garcia abroad will take care of the number 55 Chevrolet for rookie Pedersen.

“Both very smart guys,” Cannon said. “I’m pleasantly surprised how…


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